Are You Different at Work Than in Your Personal Life?

Goofy, fun, being great at arts and crafts, and having a dry sense of humour is not how my colleagues would usually describe me. At work, I’m known to be organized, reliable, serious, focused, and tactful. As a spouse, daughter, grand-daughter, aunt, friend, outdoor enthusiast, mentor, mentee, and avid traveller I will behave slightly differently depending on various situations. This is probably quite common for many people. Within my personal life, I find that my behaviours and approach does not change very much. For the most part, I do not restrict how I behave. But at work, I am quite different.

You must wonder – why would ‘personal Ami’ differ so much from the ‘work Ami'? There are some factors that will influence how I behave at work.

  1. Knowing the Organization’s Culture. Working for a bank versus a start-up tech company is quite different. On the surface, how people dress will be different. I may be used to wearing a t-shirt with jeans and sandals on the weekends, but if I worked at the bank, I would likely wear business attire. Whereas the dress code for a start-up tech company may be smart casual.     
  2. Adapting to People’s Working Styles and Personalities. In my personal life, I use a lot of sarcasm and dry humour because my family and friends know when I’m actually joking and when I’m being serious. Until I have built relationships with my managers and colleagues – I will keep my sarcasm to a minimum as I don’t want to unintentionally offend anyone. Similarly, you would need to be mindful of how people communicate with you and adjust accordingly. For example, I remember one of my colleagues only liked to communicate in-person while my manager preferred to communicate over email. Even though my communication preference at home with my friends and family is through text messages. I know that I still need to consider the preferences of others. Within my work environment, I need to find out what is acceptable within the company and adapt accordingly. 
  3. Understanding the Office Politics. It is highly likely that you will modify your behaviours by having a heightened awareness of office politics. If you are upset at your colleagues and have some choice words for them you may not articulate it given the work environment and the possibility of creating unnecessary conflict with your colleagues. However, when you blow off steam after work and chat with your partner or friends at home, some explicit words may be used to explain the situation. You will find that you may not filter your language in your personal life.

We all have different versions of ourselves in various situations. I believe that the more attuned you are to your values and strengths, the better you can align your behaviours with the situation that feels natural to you. Another tip is to hone your observational skills. Learn to actively listen to people. What type of language are they using? What’s the tone and energy in their voice? What do you observe about their body language and facial expressions?

ACTION: What is one small thing that you can do today to enhance your observational skills? Maybe you can turn your phone face-down at a meeting and pay attention to the hand gestures of one person speaking. Or take a different route back to your work space and notice any differences in your surroundings.